Ron Wood, a member of the Rolling Stones for 47 of the band’s 61 years, says his efforts in keeping the peace between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have been the key to its longevity.
But it hasn’t always come easy.
Wood, speaking to The New York Times before the band’s first album release of new songs in 18 years drops next month, said when it came to keeping the band together, he has been committed to whatever means necessary.
“That has been my thing all these years, to keep my institution going,” Wood told the Times. “When Mick and Keith fell out, I’d do my best to get them together again — at least get them talking and start the engines roaring again.”
Wood, 76, joined the Rolling Stones as an official member of the band in April 1976, after touring with the band in the previous year. His addition came during a tumultuous period as the replacement of longtime guitarist Mick Taylor. But Wood was also tapped to fill a void for Richards, who was going through the worst years of his heroin addiction, an era that marked the beginning of a long conflict between Richards and Jagger.
The low point might have come relatively quickly after Wood’s arrival. During the recording of “Tattoo You,” which was released in 1981, Jagger and Richards weren’t even talking. “And they needed an album,” Chris Kimsey, a longtime producer for the band, told Vanity Fair for a story published in 2016.
If the efforts Wood spoke of came in the early ’80s, they didn’t do much beyond holding the band together formally. When the Stones recorded their next album, “Undercover of the Night,” Kimsey said Jagger and Richards had become nearly unbearable to be around.
“When we got to making ‘Undercover,’ that was the worst time I’d ever experienced with them,” Kimsey said of the 1983 record.
The decade would eventually see Jagger record two solo albums and Richards one before the duo made amends in 1988 during a meeting at The Savoy hotel in London.
“We’re a weird pair, man,” Richards said said in an interview for The New York Times’ story. “I love him dearly, and he loves me dearly, and let’s leave it at that.”
Richards’ 2010 memoir, “Life,” in which he details the many years of what he viewed as Jaggers’ transgressions and outlandishly over-the-line behavior, would reopen old wounds.
But 13 years later, Jagger, 80, seems unfazed, calling the Stones “only a band.”
“I said to Keith, ‘If we don’t have a deadline, we’re never going to finish this record,’” Jagger told the Times. “So I said, ‘The deadline is Valentine’s Day 2023. And then we’re going to go out and tour it.’ That’s what we used to have to do. You know, you’ve got to finish ‘Exile on Main Street’ because you’ve got a tour booked.”
Now, two years after the death of longtime drummer Charlie Watts at 80, the Stones on Oct. 20 are releasing “Hackney Diamonds,” an album named after the shattered glass of warehouse windows in the industrial neighborhood of London. The record is said to be reminiscent of some of the best sounds of the Stones’ six decades.
“We worked fast, but that was the idea,” Richards, 79, told the NYT with a laugh. “I’m still recovering.”